DARPA Opens Treasure Trove Of Data And Software
Written by Alex Denham   
Friday, 07 February 2014

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has created an open catalog containing results of its sponsored research in computer science.

As a result of requests from the R&D community, DARPA has created the DARPA Open Catalog, a place for organizing and sharing those results in the form of software, publications, data and experimental details. It contains the results of the programs that DARPA has invested in, covering both fundamental and applied research in computer science.

 

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In an announcement about the new catalog, DARPA says it has an open source strategy for areas of work including big data to help increase the impact of government investments in building a flexible technology base.

Chris White, DARPA program manager, explains:

“Making our open source catalog available increases the number of experts who can help quickly develop relevant software for the government Our hope is that the computer science community will test and evaluate elements of our software and afterward adopt them as either standalone offerings or as components of their products.”

The catalog currently includes software toolkits and peer-reviewed publications from the XDATA program in the agency’s Information Innovation Office (I2O). The toolkits were partially funded by DARPA, which says they are designed to encourage flexible development of software that may enable users of targeted defense applications to process large volumes of data in a timely manner to meet their mission requirements.

XDATA is a research project looking at ways to process and analyze large, imperfect and incomplete data using a mixture of distributed databases, statistical sampling methods and new algorithmic advances to lower the computational complexity of pattern matching. The visualization side consists of human-computer interaction tools that are web-based, and factor computation between client and server. The program arose from the need for defense systems to scale to the volume and characteristics of changing data environments by making use of distributed computation and interactive visualization. The outcome of the research is being used to make the output from sensors and communications systems for battlefield awareness more easily used by defense personnel.

If the catalog proves popular, DARPA says it will continue to make available information generated by DARPA programs, including software, publications, data and experimental results. Future updates are scheduled to include components from other I2O programs such as Broad Operational Language Translation (BOLT) and Visual Media Reasoning (VMR)

BOLT is a response to the need to communicate with, and understand communications from, non-English-speaking populations. It attempts to create new techniques for automated translation and linguistic analysis that can “be applied to the informal genres of text and speech common in online and in-person communication”. BOLT says that:

“the volume of information encountered by DoD, the speed at which it arrives, and the diversity of languages and media through which it is communicated make identifying and acting on relevant information a serious challenge."

VMR s a program that attempts to extract information from photos and videos taken by ‘adversaries’ of the DoD., some of which is confiscated from a variety of devices, including laptops, cellphone cameras and memory cards. It comments:

The volume of this visual media is quickly outpacing our ability to review, let alone analyze the contents of every image.”

While the idea of opening up this data to involve the wider research community and perhaps reap the benefit from crowd sourcing seems attractive, it is still surprising that DARPA is willing to share so much material and software and to to disseminate the results of government-funded research on a globally accessible basis.

 

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